he versatility of wood is demonstrated by a wide
variety of products. This variety is a result of a
spectrum of desirable physical characteristics or
properties among the many species of wood. In many cases,
more than one property of wood is important to the end
product. For example, to select a wood species for a product,
the value of appearance-type properties, such as texture, grain
pattern, or color, may be evaluated against the influence of
characteristics such as machinability, dimensional stability,
or decay resistance.
Wood exchanges moisture with air; the amount and direction of the exchange (gain or loss) depend on the relative humid- ity and temperature of the air and the current amount of water in the wood. This moisture relationship has an important
Some physical properties discussed and tabulated are influ-
enced by species as well as variables like moisture content;
other properties tend to be independent of species. The thor-
oughness of sampling and the degree of variability influence
the confidence with which species-dependent properties are
known. In this chapter, an effort is made to indicate either
the general or specific nature of the properties tabulated.
straight grain, spiral grain, and curly grain. Grain, as a syno-
nym for fiber direction, is discussed in detail relative to
mechanical properties in Chapter 4. Wood finishers refer to
wood as open grained and close grained, which are terms
reflecting the relative size of the pores, which determines
whether the surface needs a filler. Earlywood and latewood
within a growth increment usually consist of different kinds
and sizes of wood cells. The difference in cells results in
difference in appearance of the growth rings, and the resulting
appearance is the texture of the wood. Coarse texture can
result from wide bands of large vessels, such as in oak.
“Even” texture generally means uniformity in cell dimen-
sions. Fine-textured woods have small, even-textured cells.
Woods that have larger even-sized cells are considered me-
dium-textured woods. When the words grain or texture are
Lumber can be cut from a log in two distinct ways: (a) tan-
gential to the annual rings, producing flatsawn or plainsawn
lumber in hardwoods and flatsawn or slash-grained lumber in
softwoods, and (b) radially from the pith or parallel to the
rays, producing quartersawn lumber in hardwoods and edge-
grained or vertical-grained lumber in softwoods (Fig.3–1).
Quartersawn lumber is not usually cut strictly parallel with
the rays. In plainsawn boards, the surfaces next to the edges
are often far from tangential to the rings. In commercial
practice, lumber with rings at angles of 45° to 90° to the
wide surface is called quartersawn, and lumber with rings at
angles of 0° to 45° to the wide surface is called plainsawn.
Hardwood lumber in which annual rings form angles of 30°
to 60° to the wide faces is sometimes called bastard sawn.
For many purposes, either plainsawn or quartersawn lumber
is satisfactory. Each type has certain advantages that can be
important for a particular use. Some advantages of plainsawn
and quartersawn lumber are given in Table3–1.
The decorative value of wood depends upon its color, figure,
and luster, as well as the way in which it bleaches or takes
fillers, stains, and transparent finishes. Because of the combi-
nations of color and the multiplicity of shades found in
wood, it is impossible to give detailed color descriptions of the various kinds of wood. Sapwood of most species is light in color; in some species, sapwood is practically white.
White sapwood of certain species, such as maple, may be
preferred to the heartwood for specific uses. In most species,
heartwood is darker and fairly uniform in color. In some
species, such as hemlock, spruce, the true firs, basswood,
cottonwood, and beech, there is little or no difference in color
between sapwood and heartwood. Table3–2 describes the
color and figure of several common domestic woods.
On the surface of plainsawn boards and rotary-cut veneer,
the annual growth rings frequently form elliptic and parabolic
patterns that make striking figures, especially when the rings
are irregular in width and outline on the cut surface.
Surface appearance less affected by round or oval knots compared to effect
of spike knots in quartersawn boards; boards with round or oval knots not
as weak as boards with spike knots
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